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Section 6 - The Eastern Mendips, Shepton Mallet to Frome

13 miles Easy grade walking - What this grade means

The Mendip Way skirts around the north of Shepton Mallet on a trail that climbs a rough grassy hillock, before descending through the woods to run immediately below the towering multiple arches of the disused Charlton Railway Viaduct that looms above you at the back of Kilvey Court Gardens.


An easy ascent through rich farmland now takes you over The Fosse Way, the ancient Roman Road that ran an incredible 230 miles in a virtual straight line from Lincoln to Exeter.

After climbing over the rough grassland on Ingsdons Hill, the tiny hamlet of Chelynch offers the one option of a pub on the Mendip Way today at the Poachers Pocket, a traditional Somerset pub way off any beaten track that will reward the thirsty walker with good cider.


Beyond Waterlip you start the climb to Cranmore Tower, initially using the old Roman Road at Funtle Lane to rise above the patchwork quilt of farmland into more open and extensive sheep pasture.  Then, as you approach the summit, an untouched wild grassland alive with butterflies, small birds and bobbing rabbits appears, providing extensive views over the rolling hills and vales of east Somerset. A huge plantation greets you at the top, very different to the woods encountered so far. This is shady and cool walking below huge sturdy beech trees that reach up below the tower itself as you pass through on wide earthy tracks.


Cranmore Tower, a bizarre, 150-foot 19th century folly, now a Grade 2 listed building, sits right on top. At 916 feet above sea level, it’s the highest point on the Mendip Way although it won’t feel like it when compared to the likes of Crook Peak in the West Mendips.


In World War II it was used as a lookout tower by the Home Guard and, during repairs in the 1980’s, the remains of a Roman fort with a hoard of coins were discovered adjacent to the tower, confirming this place has long been of significance for those travelling across Somerset. At weekends the tower itself is open to the public and has a small tearoom, so if you have climbed up here on the Mendip Way don’t miss the opportunity to take the last 184 steps up the tower for the best views you can get - you can see across six counties from the top!


The woods as you descend from the tower are a delight. Initially you are walking on huge wide avenues below the trees with everything smelling fresh and cool amongst the huge trees and awash with bluebells in the spring. Look out for badgers, rabbits and deer in this area – as well as the local archery club who operate here in the woods (so best not to stray from the path into the bushes!).


Having climbed so high to the Tower you now get to enjoy a rolling descent through wide lush pastures to the hamlet of Downhead, through an area known as Bottlehead Springs, where water can be heard bubbling up from the ground either side of the trackways and a gaggle of infant water courses follow your descent into the woods, all joining you now in heading downhill for Frome.


You return to more ancient woodland at Asham woods, where the Mendip Way follows the streams now gathering volume as they slink through the leafy trees. It’s a delightful trail, feeling just a bit Amazonian as you join the sluggish stream bed meandering between trailing creepers and long fallen trees poking out of banks of wild garlic and bluebells - a lush humid and jungle-like atmosphere.


Muddy at first as you travel with the stream, the route quickly picks up the hillside to continue up winding and solid trail above the valley floor. This is ancient unmanaged woodland at its best! This pattern of woods and farmland repeats now onto Frome, following increasingly larger streams and rivers, broken up by sections of vivid yellow crops fields, stony ancient trackway and green pasture.


The woods at Whatley Quarry are particularly nice rambling alongside a bubbling stream below the lip of the huge working limestone quarry which is almost completely hidden from view. The only tell-tale signs are large moss and lichen covered boulders that have tumbled down through the trees from the workings that you pick your way around as you descend on the path.


After meadows at Railford Bridge, you do eventually glimpse the modern quarry operations briefly through stone dust covered trees, before climbing away to the rim of the valley on flights of wooden steps that pass under some impressive ancient yew trees over 1000 years old.


Beyond the grisly named Murder Combe, you enter the final sections of woodland descending to the Wells Stream Valley at Great Elm. Close now to Frome, these are well walked and maintained trails that drop down to criss-cross youthful streams and the narrow quarry railway line that cuts through the woods here. The stream systems finally combine in the Wadbury Valley, where you emerge at the idyllic old stone bridge and duck pond at the hamlet of Great Elm. You are finishing now using broad woodland tracks running by the substantial Mells River which passes old mill remains, weirs and disused limekilns below cliffs on a delightful end to the walk.


After several crossings of the water on little bridges, it’s time for the final climb up the side of the steep river valley, before one final open and airy section over meadows to the first houses of the ancient town of Frome.  Take a final look back at the views back over the rolling hills and fields where you will still spot Cranmore Tower in the distance and get the opportunity to reflect on your journey.


The final half mile drops through the housing of Frome and straight down its much-loved cobbled St Catherine Street, past rows of little cafes and independent shops, to Boyles Cross at the centre of the Market Place and the river bridge which is the official end of the East Mendip Way.


Click here to read about overnight stops in the town of Frome at the very end of the East Mendip Way.

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